Nowadays, it seems like every weekend in Brooklyn, somewhere somebody is having a vegan market. Last weekend it was the Market Hotel in Bushwick, which is across the street from the Myrtle Avenue stop of the J train, that was hosting more than a dozen purveyors of fine vegan goods, including pastries, hot sandwiches and cosmetics.
Now before we go any further, I have to acknowledge that this event took place in a spot that, for most New Yorkers, is obscure and out-of-the-way. Even veteran residents of the city like me (I’ve lived here since the Reagan era) rarely find themselves riding the J, M and Z line which services, honestly, parts of Brooklyn and Queens that really no other trains do. On the weekends (especially if there are service repairs being made), the M and Z pretty much stop running, which leaves the J as the only train that runs through that area. Luckily, the J stops at Canal Street, where it connects to the N, Q, R and W lines, and those also stop not far from my apartment – so it took me just about an hour to get there.
As I said, Market Hotel, a venue for rock and roll acts that apparently has just recently re-opened after being closed for several years, is right across the street from the subway entrance. The door to the hall is down the block a bit, and the hall is on the second floor. Entering the room at 1pm for an event that started at noon, I was pleased to see that it was very well-attended.
The first table I saw was manned by my friends at Riverdel Cheese. While I was mostly keen on bringing home some fine vegan pastries (more on that later), it was lunchtime and I was hungry, so I got a hot panini – salami and cheese. This sandwich reminded me so much of a classic Reuben sandwich, in spite of the fact that it had very different ingredients – no sauerkraut and Russian dressing, just tomato and tapenade of some sort with vegan salami and cheese. It was tangy and sour with hearty sourdough bread, very satisfying.
I was also thrilled to learn from Michaela, the owner of Riverdel, that the shop now carries vegan cakes and cannolis and such from Vegan Treats in Bethlehem, PA. If you have eaten these cakes before at places in Manhattan like Red Bamboo or Atlas Cafe, you know that Vegan Treats makes some of the best cakes anywhere, vegan or otherwise (I have been a huge fan of their Death by Chocolate and other specialties for a couple decades).
I wanted to bring home a sandwich for my wife. While not opposed to vegan food, she is not too crazy about veggie meats (or cheeses either). I chose a burger from Monk’s Meats because it was full of vegetables – radishes, beets and peppers.
With some savory foods under my belt (and in my belly), it was time to go for the desserts. First up was Gigi’s Doughnuts. She had available a chocolate with vegan butternut frosting and a raspberry filled – both turned out to be quite wonderful (I showed remarkable restrain and ate them a couple days later).
The main baker I looked forward to visiting was Peaceful Provisions – it was a visit to them by my brother Chris (which he memoralized on Facebook) that tipped me off to these vegan markets to begin with. They listed about a dozen different doughnuts and such on their website that would be selling that day. They are so popular, though, that only an hour into the event, they were already down to just four items for sale: their triple decker brownie and three different varieties of doughnuts (chocolate, strawberry lime and one I’ve forgotten – I haven’t eaten it yet – more of that incredible will-power!).
Finally, I had to visit Gone Pie Bakery. Their offerings of all sorts of decadent desserts smothered in chocolate make my eyes pop out of my head. They sell things like chocolate covered pretzels and this time, with Easter around the corner, they had bunny-shaped chocolates filled with peanut butter and caramel (drool). I couldn’t help but walk away from there with a handful of goodies.
OK, so it’s not really will-power that has kept me from devouring all these sweets in one orgy of sugar consumption. My wife Therese suggested that I see if I can eat just one a day, since I don’t really need the sugar as they say. So I am doing my best to follow that plan (so far so good). I started it all off with the chocolate doughnut from Peaceful Provisions. Happy vegan pastry hunting, my friends!